Four Armed Avalokiteshvara

Four Armed Avalokiteshvara, 85.04.0125 from the Museum’s collection, included in the exhibition Infinite Compassion at Vassar College.

Throughout the year, the Museum presents a calendar of ongoing programs and exhibits. The Museum also lends artifacts from the collection to other museums, galleries, universities and institutions.

Currently On View
Fearsome Gazes: Wrathful Deities from the Collection of Jacques Marchais
On View through October 31, 2015
In English, the word “wrath” connotes a fierce, often vengeful, anger. While it can be awe-inspiring, wrath is often seen as a negative in human beings. But what about Buddhist deities? The figures presented in this exhibition all fall under the category of “Wrathful Deities” in Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism. These figures can easily be misconstrued as demonic or evil by unfamiliar audiences due to their fierceness. Their attributes, appearances, and activities align well with conceptions of what a deity labeled as “wrathful” should be. However, in the Tibetan Buddhist context to which they belong, the fiercely wrathful appearance of these deities is an expression of their compassionate, Buddhist nature.

Wrathful deities can be converted gods, protectors, and meditational guides. Their appearance and attributes is focused on the transformative nature of the Buddhist path. Some of these deities were raging nature spirits who converted to Buddhism and swore an oath to protect the path and its followers. Others are peaceful buddhas and bodhisattvas who have chosen to take on this type of appearance in order to help practitioners transform their negative aspects into positives such as compassion.

The Jacques Marchais Museum’s collection features a number of spectacular wrathful deity statues. These works were all collected by the museum’s founder, Jacques Marchais, in the first half of the twentieth century. As a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, Jacques Marchais understood what these fearsome-appearing figures represented in their original context. This exhibition from the Freed from the Vault series will explore the various facets of wrathful-appearing deities and their role within the Tibetan Buddhist cosmos.

This exhibition is sponsored, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Additional support is from Councilmember Vincent Ignizio, Councilmember Debi Rose and Councilmember Steve Matteo.

Traveling Exhibitions
Vassar College
Several works from the collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art were featured at Vassar’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The exhibition Embodying Compassion in Buddhist Art: Image, Pilgrimage, Practice (April 23 – June 28, 2015) was the first exhibition in America to focus on the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in his many forms across Asia. Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is among the most popular figures in modern Himalayan and East Asian Buddhism. The Jacques Marchais Museum has a number of exquisite statues and paintings related to Avalokiteshvara.

Information about this exhibition can be found at the Embodying Compassion website. The exhibition’s catalogue can be downloaded as a PDF from the website under the Resources tab. The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art was honored to participate in this exhibition.

Previous Exhibits
Freed From the Vault: Objects from the Collection of Jacques Marchais
Exhibit Dates: January 2013 – June 2014.
Lhasa on the Hudson
Photographs by Mary M. Whitlock
Exhibit Dates: January 29 – October 31, 2012.
Tashi Dhargyal and the Menris Tradition of Thangka Art
Exhibit Dates:June 25, 2011 – November 30, 2011
Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion
Exhibit Dates: March 29, 2009 – April 1, 2011
From Staten Island to Shangri-La: The Collecting Life of Jacques Marchais
Exhibit Dates, March 18, 2007 -December 31, 2008